Steel has long been among the most highly valued construction materials, but recently it’s been gaining appreciation for a trait other than its strength—namely its sustainability. Understanding the place steel holds among today’s green building materials will help you spot more opportunities to profit from this versatile and eco-friendly metal.
The 100 Percent Recyclable Material
Unlike wood, plastic and many other construction materials, steel can be recycled an unlimited amount of times without any loss of its most useful properties: strength, durability and ductility. Its capacity for repeated recycling means this metal saves energy and cuts down on CO2 emissions and other waste produced during raw materials extraction.
Steel’s magnetic properties make it easy and relatively cheap to recover from among other waste material. Because steel scrap is essential for the production of steel products, it’s always in demand.
Currently, more than 90 percent of the structural steel produced in the United States contains recycled steel scrap. Some 85 to 98 percent of steel used in construction is recovered at the end of a building’s usefulness. All this steel can be efficiently turned into new steel products. In fact, the recycling and reuse of this metal is so common, steel makers frequently design their products with the expectation of reuse.
Easy on the Environment
Iron ore and coal, the components of steel, are some of the most abundant natural resources on earth. Nonetheless, available deposits are non-renewable resources that, if used at the current rate, will run out. This fact makes recycling a necessity.
Depending on the energy source used, steel recycling uses less energy and contributes less to CO2 emissions per ton than aluminum. Even better, the amount of energy needed to produce a ton of steel has dropped by 50 percent over the last few decades.
Water use is also minimal. Only a small amount is lost to evaporation with the rest released back into the environment, often purer than when it was drawn.
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